The Courage to Start Over Again

I find myself “back at square one” when it comes to my fitness goals. After a year of limited ability to exercise, followed by surgery, followed by recovery, I find myself with the ok to exercise from my doctor and no motivation to do so. I did go out one day and I ran three miles. I felt as if it were a half-marathon and that I was under-prepared. I was sore for four days afterward. Apparently I’m not ready for that and need to start slower.

Dejected and unmotivated, I decided to re-read my blog to see how I was able to get started the last time. Not only did I find my initial posts motivational, I found that I have left a record that, if not beneficial to anyone else, is a goldmine for me.  I struggled just as much back then just to get started walking on my treadmill. The difference is that I know just how far I got from that humble start. I need to do it again, and I need to find the courage to do it. I think I just did.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling that I already did this and shouldn’t have to do it again (the “poor me” trap), or the trap of thinking that I am just not the fitness “type”, or the trap that it just doesn’t matter. I do have to do it all again, but hopefully this time I will learn from past lessons and not get discouraged or take too many false steps.

I am the fitness type, because I’ve been fit and I loved it. I learned this late in life, not having been much of an athlete as a child. I learned that strength training makes me more stable…more graceful (I was never a graceful child). Running, eventually, makes me feel healthy and energized…at least the shorter runs do. The longer runs make me feel powerful in a whole different way…conquering my fears and proving to myself that I can do it.

It does matter. Being fit and healthy is a gift that only I can give myself and one that will extend my life and enhance my quality of life as I get older. It matters because it makes me better at all I do, provides me with endurance, energy, and perspective. It gives me confidence. I was getting used to the words, “I am a long-distance runner”, now I’ve removed all my “13.1” magnets from my car because they made me feel like a fraud. I earned them with blood (not much), sweat (a whole lot), and a few tears.

It won’t be easy, but what worthwhile goal ever is? I have new commitments that will make it harder for me to find time for fitness, but I’m used to scheduling challenges. I have my own, personal record of how to get to my goals, and I will…

Find the Joy in the Journey!


Time For More De-Cluttering

Despite my procrastination earlier in the week, I did manage to get some de-cluttering done, mostly at the last minute. Having had a moving van’s worth of stuff hauled out two weeks earlier, there was suddenly more open space and more dust bunnies were revealed than I care to recall. Using one of my techniques to get past procrastination, I hired a cleaning company for a session.

Even with the deadline staring me down, I putzed around most of the weekend getting little accomplished. I was easily distracted by ideas of cleaning…which can be rather mindless and provide an immediate sense of accomplishment. But I knew that the de-cluttering was the hard part and that I needed to focus on that.

By the morning that they were coming, I found myself frantically trying to catch up for my weekend of procrastination. My allergies acted up as I moved things around, disturbing the dog hair and dust that had been hiding behind piles of papers, piles of books, furniture, and everything else. I tossed and recycled as much as I could, but that was time-consuming. In the end, I just put a lot of stuff in boxes and bins and stuffed it in the closets! Not an auspicious start to a renewed vow of de-cluttering.

When I got back home from work that night, however, I was so glad I’d done it. Despite the remaining clutter, and the knowledge that my basement and attic need to be tackled eventually, I felt a sense of calm coming home without the immediate feeling that my second job of the day was starting.

Now I have some clearer de-cluttering goals. When I took down my daughter’s bunk bed, I put the pieces in my office. That means I can’t get to my filing cabinet which means I haven’t organized any of my papers in months. At the same time, my son dug through the attic to find a twin bed that I then put up in my daughter’s room to replace the bunk beds…leaving two other, disassembled beds blocking the attic.

Along the lines of the “mushroom principle”, I cannot start one project without first having to tackle another which in turn requires tackling an even bigger project, and on and on. So, first, when the kids are home for Thanksgiving, we’ll tuck the beds back in place in the attic. Next we’ll carry the bunk bed pieces up and find a place for them as well. At that point, I can tackle my paperwork.

Like a giant puzzle, I will slowly put everything in its place. As the picture gets clearer and clearer, I will find my motivation to finish it. I will find myself able to let go of what I no longer need and to find the proper use of each space in my house. It won’t be done by my birthday…but that is ok. This 50 by 50 project won’t come to a neat conclusion by then.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and be grateful that there will always be more journeys ahead!

Anticipation, Motivation, Procrastination

I have been so busy lately in every aspect of my life and in some ways that is a life saver and in others it’s terribly disconcerting and leaves me longing for time to focus. Being overly busy is sometimes a blessing and sometimes a curse. Have you been there?

This time of year has been a low point in many years…one in which I have decided to take on some huge challenge because nothing much is going on. I guess I am used to that dynamic and tend to take on big challenges this time of year. In recent years, however, this time of year is full of work obligations and my routine of taking on something new and big is at odds with my new reality.

So, I go through my weeks so very busy. I look forward to the weekends as a time to finally get something done for myself, and yet my weekends are bespoke. My younger daughter’s basketball schedule dominates my evenings and weekends…and as I anticipate this last week of basketball, I find that the success of her team means at least one more week with a championship dominating the following weekend. I love this stuff! Don’t get me wrong…I just struggle to find time for, well, me!

I am a great procrastinator. Sometimes, because I am procrastinating, I turn to something unrelated and go full throttle to accomplish something other than what I think I “should” be doing. Ha! At least I get something knocked-off of my to-do list. Not bad. When there is so much on my to-do list, this seems to be the best way to go. Is it?

Lately, I’ve put all my excess energy (provided I have any) towards losing weight and getting physically fit. Turns out, there are a lot more pulls on my time. Turns out that despite my efforts at physical fitness, I’ve not lost a pound since the beginning of the year. Turns out, that although I’ve not lost a pound since the beginning of the year, I’ve lost an inch  and a half each off of my waist, hips, and thighs.

So, this morning, I was trolling through my closet looking for that next size down. I started out as a size 14…not that I would admit it, so I pretended I was a 12. (Keep in mind that I’m at max, 5 foot 4 inches and with bird-bones). So, after losing 18 pounds, I dropped a dress size to a 10…in reality, I dropped two dress sizes, from 14 to 10. But now, I’ve lost only an additional 8 pounds without an additional drop in size…or have I? I’m wearing these overly-loose 10’s and wondering when/if I’ll fit into an 8. Gauging solely by my weight, I’m 20+ pounds from being an 8…

Never-the-less, I started trolling through my closet. I found nary an 8. What is going on? I have no clue. I found many size 6 pants, all obviously too small. Then I found a sole pair of pants that looked like they might fit…a “big” size 6. I pulled them on, past my thighs…past my hips…past my waist, zipped and buttoned. Wow! They actually almost fit. Maybe in 5-10 pounds they will be a good fit.

I recalled that I put some too-small clothes in boxes and stored them in the attic. I ventured up to the attic and found the boxes of old clothes. Sure enough, I found some of my own clothes among the out-grown children’s clothes. Most were maternity clothes and some were clothes two or more sizes too small. I did find one box of sweaters which might have a few items which would fit. Inside, and on top, was a lovely, zip-up, black cardigan…a prize, no matter what else I might find.

I am still puzzling about what I wore underneath this cardigan and even more so, what pants I wore with it…I dream of some grey, wool, trousers…but they are nowhere to be found. Now I anticipate the fun I will have in cleaning out my closet…except that I don’t have time to do it in the near future.

I find myself motivated to clean-out my closet…I anticipate the joy I will feel from getting rid of clothes that are too big or too out of date. I am feeling my way past procrastination, and yet, there are still the limitations on my time beyond my personal limits.

Find the Joy in the Journey…sometimes anticipation is a virtue worth the wait!

Drop A Dress Size: Weights And Measures

The other day I was despairing that I’d hit a weight-loss plateau which I wrote about in, The Horrible, Awful, Weight-Loss Plateau That Wasn’t. Five days later, it’s starting to look more and more like a plateau, but I am not despairing any more. A thoughtful reader pointed out that maybe I am putting on muscle; adding lean mass while I’m still losing fat. I was hopeful that this was the case, but didn’t know how I could really tell.

I weigh myself every day, which I do find helpful, if a bit obsessive. (I did state right at the beginning in Time To Drop A Few Dress Sizes, that the only way I lose weight is to be obsessed about it, so my readers were fairly warned!) I also take a few measurements every four weeks, and it turned out that this was one of those weeks. Even though I’ve only lost a net of 2 pounds in the last four weeks (both in the first of those four weeks), I have lost inches. I went back and plotted my measurements (I use Spark People, so it does the plotting for me) and saw that my measurements are coming down whether I am losing weight or not. Wonder of wonders, I am getting more muscular and less fat…the scale just isn’t the right instrument to tell me this.

Even so, I know I’ve been slacking off and need to re-motivate myself. The doldrums of winter have set in and my energy level has dropped. Recent family events have sapped my energy as well. While my son was home recently for surgery, I found myself making more substantial evening meals too. So, things are getting back to normal and my son is back at school. Fencing is starting to kick in as a fun way to get some exercise once a week, but I was looking for something else new.Swimsuit

As I drove home from taking my son back to school, I decided to stop at Costco. It’s enough out of my normal way that I rarely go, and this seemed like a great opportunity. While I was picking up some staples and something for dinner, I passed a stack of bathing suits. I stopped and went back and looked at the suits. They were $19.99 Speedo’s…I saw similar suits at a sporting goods store for $79.99…so this was a bargain! I love to swim and I even belong to a gym with a pool. I’ve lost enough weight that I know my bathing suit doesn’t fit me anymore, so an idea was born. I would buy this suit and find one day a week to go swimming.

I joined the gym almost a year ago and I’ve gone exactly two times…almost a year ago. Both times I went to swim. I can be quite the procrastinator, but this time I am going to be smart about it. With my younger daughter’s drop-off and pick-up schedule, not to mention all of her extra-curricular activities, it would be a struggle not worth having to get to the gym during the week. Besides, it’s really crowded right before and after work. So, I will scout out the quietest time in the pool, probably early on Sunday, and make that my swimming time.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and don’t be afraid to take a detour once in a while!


The Elusive Goal

Of all my 50 by 50 wishes, losing weight and being fit is my most elusive and my most desired goal. I set my goal at losing 50 pounds by the time I was 50 and eight months into this 30 month journey, I have lost exactly -3 pounds…that’s right, I’ve gained three pounds. I am now five pounds shy of my peak weight, which at the time, prompted my doctor to test me for diabetes and tell me I was in the danger zone: pre-diabetic. In light of my promise to myself in my recent Groundhog Day post, I am making myself fully aware that by not changing my habits I am choosing to be unhealthy…In an attempt to kick-myself into gear, here are my personal reasons for why I want to lose weight, the good, the bad, and the silly.

The Good:

I want to be healthy and strong so that I have energy for my husband, my children, myself, my job, my non-profit work, and everything else I enjoy doing with my time.

I want to be healthy and strong so that someday I can be an energetic grandmother (not too soon…)

I want to take care of myself now so that I’m not a burden on anyone else when I’m older.

I want to be able to run a 5k without stopping, maybe even a 10k!

The Bad:

I want to look better in my clothes.

I want to fit back into my nicer but older clothes.

I want to look good, period.

The Silly:

Being thin makes me feel more powerful.

Being thin makes me feel more entitled to my life.

Being thin makes me happy.

Once, back in my mid-twenties, I went on a weight-loss program. Now, looking back on that, I’d be happy to finish at the weight I started at all those years ago. I lost the weight by watching what I ate and by working out about 2 hours a day. I had no children, I lived about a mile from the office, and my husband belonged to a weight-lifting gym and his being gone gave me the time to do my own workout. I was lean and mean and happy. Really happy. Being thin made me feel happy. I know that’s not supposed to be the way it works, but it did. Until I couldn’t get pregnant.

Now, in retrospect, my weight was low, but healthy. It was not interfering with my getting pregnant. But when you are in your twenties, the doctors won’t investigate infertility for at least 2 years…pretty ridiculous if you ask me, since any healthy twenty-something ought to get pregnant in 2 or 3 months of trying. So, I figured one thing I could control was my weight and I gained 10 pounds. That did not have any impact on my fertility, but finally the doctor ordered a test to check whether or not my tubes were open…and in the process, they opened one up and I got pregnant within a week. But, the weight gain was a problem for me and I’ve never been lower in weight than where I started back in my twenties before I went on the weight loss program.

So, here am I. I am 5 pounds heavier than my heaviest weight at 9 months pregnant. I am 40 pounds heavier than I was after having my last child. I am 60+ pounds heavier than I was in those, “oh I am so happy because I’m thin” days. When I was at my thinnest, I spent some serious coin on a couple of fabulous Chanel suits…clothes I would proudly wear today even if they are 20 years old…they are timeless. When I was at my thinnest, I had my wedding rings resized…and haven’t worn them since.

I am at a crossroads. I am admitting that I make bad choices every day that undermine this goal. I am going to sit on this and think for a while.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and reach for it with all your might!


Related Post: Health and Happiness

Race Day–My First 5k

At the beginning of November I challenged myself in Physical and Mental Challenges for November, to run in a 5k by the end of the month…on Thanksgiving, to be exact. Well, I entered, I was there, and I did the distance and finished the race. I cannot say I actually ran much of it, but I did make it, despite a few minor set-backs.

I did not properly train for the 5k, despite my best intentions and a lot of effort. I just didn’t know what I was doing! I trained on the treadmill up until two weeks before the race, building up to 5.6 miles per hour for a half-hour every other day. My plan had been to build that up to 6 miles per hour and then take my act on the road, but I ran out of time. Still, I thought that I was already going 10 minutes and 43 seconds per mile, so even walking I should finish the 5k in about 33 minutes.

That first day, I learned just how wrong I’d been about running, which I wrote about in And I Ran…I Ran So Far Away!. A friend sent me a link to the website for C25K, which stands for Couch to 5K…a laudable goal! According to the website, I was doing the right thing with my run/walk method, but I needed another 7 or 8 weeks of training three times a week to actually run a 5k. So much for my Thanksgiving race dreams!

I kept it up, even as the temperature dropped and I had to run in the dark before work. One day it was so cold, that despite a proper warm-up and proper attire, my muscles stiffened up and I walked more than I ran and ended up short-circuiting my route at the half-way point.

As the day of the race dawned, or rather before it dawned, I was up eating breakfast and preparing for the race. My husband and older daughter and I piled into the car and drove downtown. The radio was tuned to the race-day commentary and I was nervous and excited to think about being part of it. The announcer told us that 21,000 runners and walkers were registered for the race. Oh my! On the one hand, I thought, well at least no one will notice me in that crowd…I will just blend in. Then he mentioned that it is the most watched of any foot race in the US. Just great.

We parked about a mile from the race and walked quickly to the convention center. It was cold, only 34 degrees…as cold as the day I’d had to cut my training short. My warm-up at home had already worn off. A mist was shrouding the skyscrapers in what could have made for a gloomy morning, but the city was so vibrant at 7 a.m. Thanksgiving morning. Music was pulsing through the downtown and people were everywhere. Many people were in costumes and there were serious runners but also families with children, dogs, dogs in costumes, and runners with babies in running strollers.

My daughter and I positioned ourselves in the race and my husband moved on ahead to the first wave of runners. The 5k and 10k are run simultaneously and he was running the 10k. I’d already laughed that he and I would finish around the same time. Sad, but it turned out to be true. I tried to warm my muscles up a bit, but we were crammed body-to-body in the crowd. Then, we were off. My daughter was soon out of sight in the crowd ahead. I kept running. Pretty soon two floats, being pulled by costumed runners passed me by.

The main theme of the race for me was all the runners who passed me by. I walked more than in my training runs and that compounded to make my muscles even stiffer with the cold, but I pressed on. Early on in my first walking stretch, a young woman ran by me and without pausing or turning dropped this nugget on my head: “Why did you start there?”  Yes, why indeed. But, I wasn’t in anyone’s way and it was none of her business that I’d set myself an unreasonable goal out of sheer ignorance.

I kept at it and actually ran more as I got through the race than I had in the beginning. I enjoyed all the costumes, a ketchup bottle running with a mustard bottle and their dog in a hot-dog costume, many Santas, a plethora of turkeys, some “cooked” birds as hats and many more full-body turkey costumes. Elves were plentiful, a couple of native Americans running in loin cloths, a group of “naked” Santas running in skin-colored body suits and red and white loin-cloths (not sure what it is with the loin cloths…), a couple of court jesters, ballerinas, clowns, characters from Dr. Seuss, and too many others to mention. All of these passed me by.

Eventually, the runners from the third wave passed me, then even some walkers who had picked up their pace and done some running. Children, mostly urged on by a parent, passed me. I kept on and on and on…and got to where I thought the race ended, but it continued around a last loop before the end . At that point, two girls, about 8 years old, ran past me and turned to me. Their faces were furrowed with worry and they asked me, how much further they had to go. About a half-mile I told them. About a half-mile they echoed back, then their faces smoothed out and off they ran and I lost them in the crowd. Well, at least, I thought, I still emit some sort of mom-ness that can bring relief to two small girls and help them finish the race!

As I ran past the finish line 43 minutes after I started, I felt energized and exhausted. I was proud of myself for finishing, and disappointed that I had so misunderstood the training process. I still want to continue my training and run an entire 5k without walking. Meanwhile, I’m taking my training back to the treadmill unless we get a rare day over 45 degrees between now and my next race.

Find the Joy in the Journey, and don’t let the Turkey’s get you down!

Related Posts:

Physical and Mental Challenges for November

And I Ran…I Ran So Far Away!

Fear and Motivation–Part III: The Spiders and The Barracuda

In Part I, I wrote about how bad bosses may try to motivate their employees through fear and intimidation and how that’s a very poor and unsuccessful method. Pity the poor employees who can’t escape, however. In Part II, I wrote about how I didn’t let fear stop me from trying new things like public speaking and skiing. It was exhilarating to overcome those fears, but I also always knew I could quit. I could say “no” to the speech, I could say “no” to skiing and instead hang in the lounge all day or go shopping instead! But there’s a third kind of fear I’ve experienced, one where I had no option to quit…I was reduced to the primal “fight or flight” responses.

Now, I know that spiders shouldn’t have put me in fight or flight mode, but as an arachnophobic teen alone in the house with two large specimens…I think I have a case for it. I don’t know where my younger sister was that night, maybe with my parents who were taking my older sister back to college. It was a 10 hour round-trip drive and I didn’t expect them home until late. Those sorts of details are hazy, but what’s still clear in my mind are the spiders!

I was sitting on the carpeted basement floor watching TV when a large black spider ran toward me! I jumped up and jumped onto the couch, my heart in my throat. Now, I knew there were spiders in the “other half” of the basement, the unfinished part, but I’d never actually seen one in the TV room, nor had I ever seen one that large. You know the type, the “basement” spider, big, black, and hairy! This one was enormous. It ran under the piano and I ran for the stairs. Now, I didn’t want to leave it alive, so I got a can of bug poison, probably ant spray, and cautiously made my way back down to the basement. I sprayed and sprayed and sprayed underneath the piano, then headed upstairs since the poison makes me sick. I got to the hallway when I saw the cat playing with something…another basement spider!

I scooped the cat up and sprayed the spider. This one was smaller, about ½ an inch across. It was unphased by the spray, so I kept spraying it directly with the poison until it was in a puddle of poison and it finally died. At that point, I was overwhelmed thinking of the larger spider that might still be alive in the basement. With the poison in one hand and the cat in the other, I gave up on “fight” and fled to my bedroom on the second floor.

My mother recently sent me a large envelope full of old news clippings, report cards, samples of my writing, and this note that I left them that night:

Years later, my husband and I were on a ten-year anniversary trip to the Virgin Islands. We went on a day trip on a boat and at one point stopped in an area where there were supposed to be a lot of sea turtles. My husband stayed on the boat, and the other passengers all took off in one direction, so I decided to swim off by myself in the other direction. I figured the large group of them would scare off the turtles and maybe I’d get a better view. I never did see a single turtle and as I turned to swim back to the boat, I found myself a foot away from an enormous jaw of incredibly sharp teeth!

Now, I have no idea how dangerous barracudas are, but I knew that I didn’t want to find out. That jaw looked like it could take my head off or a good chunk of an arm or leg. It was in between me and the boat, so at first I swam wide around it. It was still following me, but slowly. I swam as fast as I could to the boat and climbed out. Looking back, I couldn’t see it. I later learned that they can swim as fast as 27 miles per hour! I also learned that although they could tear a big chunk of flesh off of a person, they are more likely looking at you as a larger predator. They are hoping you’ll catch something and they can rip a piece of it off for themselves. All I know is that my heart didn’t stop pounding for a while.

Find the Joy in the Journey, and if you are faced with danger all you can do is fight or flee…hopefully you’ll pick well!

Related Posts:

Fear and Motivation—Part I: It’s a Bad Boss Who Tries to Motivate with Fear

Fear and Motivation—Part II: Overcoming Personal Fears

Fear and Motivation–Part II: Overcoming Personal Fears

I am firmly in the camp that fear is a poor motivator, but overcoming a personal fear is a huge motivator for me.  In my thirties I conquered my fear of public speaking and my fear of skiing…I’d have to re-conquer them if it came right down to it, but now I know I could.

Fear of public speaking is fairly common; according to the website, Glossophobia (yes, there’s an official term for fear of speaking!), as many as 75% of people suffer from glossophobia. I had a job for a few years where I was teaching lean manufacturing techniques. I had to regularly get up in front of groups of strangers and keep their interest as I taught them the basics to get them started on a project. At first, I couldn’t sleep well the night before, knowing I had to be knowledgeable and entertaining about something that was new to me. As I got more and more practiced at it though, it got easier. The more workshops I conducted, the more of my own stories I had to share to illustrate my training.

I worked through my fear and came out knowing that I could speak in front of strangers. Then I was asked by my company to give a presentation about my work and I had to speak in front of not a dozen people, but hundreds of people…and these were people that potentially held my career in their hands! I walked out on stage and walked through my lean manufacturing example. I took questions from the audience, and I survived! The biggest thing I learned is that the more knowledgeable I was about a subject, the more quickly I could relax on stage and get into the flow of my presentation.

I don’t know of a specific term related to the fear of skiing, but fear of dying is really the bottom line! I didn’t start out with a fear of skiing, but my first time down the slopes in Colorado was terrifying. I’d skied a little in my middle school ski club, but only in the Midwest where the hills were small and the top layer of snow was icy, crunchy bits that flew out of a snow-making machine. It was always cold at ski club, in the early darkness after school, and I gave it up after the first year because I just didn’t enjoy it. Years later, my sister invited us to Colorado to go skiing and I was excited about the idea of taking lessons and giving it a try.

I worked on the training hill with my instructor and learned all the basics. By afternoon, I was up on the mountain. It was so beautiful and so scary! I started down the trail and soon picked up a lot of speed and was heading for what looked like a cliff. I veered at the last minute and was able to slow down a bit. Within minutes I had the same problem, only I was going faster still. I rolled back and executed a planned fall…not too gracefully. I wasn’t too graceful getting back up again either! I still had a long way to go and started down the mountain again. A third time I found myself flying toward the edge of the trail and fell to keep from going over the edge. By that time, I was ready to give up and hike down the mountain. Then, I remembered my instructor saying, “The most important thing to remember is to stay in control…it doesn’t matter how fast or slow you ski, just that you are always in control”. This time, I got up and started across the slope, making my way down in big, loopy curves. I even did some nice parallel turns and I got all the way down, always in control.

In both these cases, I was afraid of something but I chose to push through my fear and conquer it. It was exhilarating and powerful. Now I am trying to do the same thing by challenging myself to conquer other fears. I can’t say that facing a fear motivates me, but conquering one does wonders! So, onward on my November challenges to get my novel out of my head and onto “paper” and to complete a 5k.

Find the Joy in the Journey…even when you have to face your fears to do it!

Related Posts:

Fear and Motivation-Part I: It’s a Bad Boss Who Tries to Motivate with Fear

Fear and Motivation–Part III: The Spiders and the Barracuda

Fear and Motivation—Part I: It’s a Bad Boss Who Tries to Motivate with Fear

Many books and articles have been written about the different kinds of “bad boss” and how to deal with them. But what if the boss is ALL the bad types of boss? I found this article, “5 Types of Bad Boss and How to Handle Them” by Suzanne Kennedy on the BiteSizeBio website. The five bad types mentioned are passive-aggressive, manipulative, unfocused, micro-manager and put-down bosses. What if you have a boss that is all five of those types? Sounds impossible, but as Mark Twain once said, “truth is stranger than fiction”.

In the years when I worked in lean manufacturing I saw a very stark example of leading by fear. I was working with a small equipment manufacturer and the first day started off very quietly. No one was talking. In the room, were not only the plant workers and industrial engineers, but also the head of human resources and the plant manager, which was very unusual for the type of working-level workshop that we were conducting. This company couldn’t deliver their machines when promised and really needed help.

The second day, we had a segment on a fear-free workplace. It was a piece we always did, not one done for this particular company. Everyone refused to participate! This company had been a small, tight-knit, family-run company but it had recently been purchased by a big company from overseas. The new plant manager was a petite woman with blonde hair, blue eyes, flowery dresses, and an iron fist. She smashed anyone who didn’t do things “her” way, regardless of the fact that she was clearly giving bad advice. She had recently fired a long-time employee as an example to the rest of the workers. She was your worst nightmare of a boss in the guise of a young Shirley Temple.

The metric that she had for delivery was “on time” or “not on time”, so she’d have workers cannibalize machines that were late for delivery (already counted against her metric) and use parts to finish off orders due in the next 24 hours so she’d get credit for an “on time”. Clearly an example of a poorly designed metric, taken to extremes and causing behavior destructive to the company! Not only that, but the parts in question were often the electrical controllers and they were inadvertently damaging the electronics in the process and then claiming that they had received bad parts from their new parent company.

On the third day, we came in only to find that the plant manager had held a meeting before our session started and told her employees not to cooperate with us! Needless to say, we didn’t accomplish more than surface improvements at that plant…and good riddance. I felt anguished that the only woman plant manager I’d run into was so gosh darned awful at her job and that she used her sweet southern drawl and overtly girlish dresses and hairstyle to send decidedly mixed messages to her employees.

The environment of fear in that plant was palpable. No one was willing to take the slightest risk to make their job more pleasant or more efficient, even when they had invited their biggest customer into their plant to help them make sorely needed improvements. It wasn’t a lesson I needed to learn, but it was the most unbelievable example I had seen or have seen since. It certainly reinforced the point to me that ruling by fear might get people to do your bidding, but only as long as it takes them to find another job. I saw such a waste of talent and opportunity in that company as the workers were too afraid to offer suggestions or make improvements.

I never went back to that plant, nor heard how things turned out…but I suspect that the plant manager didn’t last too long…she should have been more open to learning about the business and less about being in charge.

Being feared does not make one a good motivator…but does fear motivate us in other contexts?

Find the Joy in the Journey…and stay away from bullies!

Related posts:

Fear and Motivation—Part II: Overcoming Personal Fears

Fear and Motivation–Part III: The Spiders and the Barracuda

Maintaining, Progressing, and Regrouping…Finding The Right Balance

I have this philosophy to help me accomplish small goals in my life. I call it: maintenance versus progress. I look at most homey tasks as maintenance. They are important, very important. If I don’t do them, eventually I create a crisis by which I have to do more work than it would have taken to maintain things to begin with. These are mundane tasks, like doing the dishes every day, keeping up with the laundry every week, maintaining the household books on a regular basis. They do not help me progress in any way, but if I don’t do them, I’ll waste more time fixing things.

So, progress. What does that look like? That’s when I clean out the linen closet and paint the bare drywall. That’s when I finally go through all the winter coats from my three children’s childhoods and those of their older cousins. It’s letting go of something to make room for something new. I need these bits of progress so I don’t feel as if I’m just treading water through my life.

My 50 by 50 has many progress moments and projects that will help me get to the next stage of my life, and I’ve tried in the last 3 and a half months to squeeze a few in. But, sometimes it’s reality that I let everything go for a while and need to do more than routine maintenance, I need to catch up and regroup. I need to forget about progress for a little while and just catch-up. Such is the case now, after a lengthy business trip.

So, I spent my first few days doing the last day’s dishes, doing the last 10 day’s laundry, doing the last fortnight’s bills. I unpacked my suitcases and put them back in the attic. I filled out all the forms that my girls brought home from school. I made all the follow-up appointments from their trip to the dentist (filling and orthodontic review for the younger one, panoramic X-ray for jaw pain for the elder). I’m tidying up the ends of my life that have loosened up while I’ve been gone. I get some satisfaction out of this, but I also feel frustrated to have put progress on hold for so long.

Regrouping is different than retreating…which is an oxymoronic way of saying to step back in order to figure out how to go forward. I realize that this “regrouping” is more like getting back to square one than plotting out my next steps. And I need some of that too. I’ve been thinking about what’s coming up and what I’d like to do. For one, I really want to finish my hall and stairway painting project, but I’ve lost momentum. I’ve also been derailed by Dickens…reading arguably his longest book, Bleak House in fits and starts. It’s never a good idea to read Dickens in fits and starts. He includes so many characters and so many story lines that start out completely separate and it takes some stick-to-itiveness to get to the point where the story lines start to converge.

Then there are the things I have on my horizon. I’ve been making progress on the treadmill (until recently) and I can see that it is realistic to set a goal to run a 5k in the near future. There is one that runs past my house in April and I plan to sign up. Then, I plan to follow that up with a run in my hometown that is a race of an odd length and very, very hilly in late May. I ran in that race when I was about 14…and it’s the only race I’ve ever run! It’s exciting to think that I could run any race at all, but I am slowly gaining the confidence to publicly state that as one of my 50 by 50 goals.

At the heart of it, I need to regroup sometimes, even if I’m not just back from a trip. I accept that I’m not always moving forward, but rather two steps forward and one step back…and that’s ok. I am still excited about the future!

Find the Joy in the Journey!